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Georgia Senate condemns NFL ahead of Super Bowl

ATLANTA -- Just in time for the Super Bowl, a politically charged debate over the National Football League has landed in the Georgia Legislature.

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Greg Bluestein
, Cox Newspapers

ATLANTA -- Just in time for the Super Bowl, a politically charged debate over the National Football League has landed in the Georgia Legislature.

State Sen. David Shafer, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, introduced a proposal Thursday to denounce the "hypocritical actions" of the league and urge Georgians to stand during the national anthem after the NFL denied a veterans group advertising space in the Super Bowl program.

"When America's veterans try to exercise their free speech," Shafer said, "the NFL has no problem telling them to sit down and shut up."

The measure was unanimously adopted Thursday by the Senate with no debate; it appeared some lawmakers were caught off guard by its swift consideration. And it underscores conservative frustration with the NFL that escalated last week.

The league said it denied the advertising space for American Veterans after it declined to change language about standing for the national anthem. The ad, submitted last week to the publisher of the game program, includes the words "Please Stand" prominently.

Shafer is embracing long-simmering tensions over some NFL players who have taken to kneeling during the national anthem to highlight social injustice.

President Donald Trump nodded to the controversy Tuesday in his State of the Union address, praising a young boy in the audience as a reminder of "why we proudly stand for the national anthem."

And the NFL fallout has seeped into other political races. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster issued a proclamation asking residents to stand during the anthem at the Super Bowl. His top rival said a day later she "won't enrich the NFL by even watching the Super Bowl."

In Georgia's race for governor, Republican state Sen. Michael Williams chimed in on the debate Thursday, declaring that "the overpaid crybabies kneeling during our national anthem no longer deserve my patronage."

"I will not be watching the Super Bowl nor any other NFL games until serious changes are made," he added. "After watching the disgraceful 'kneeling' antics of players during the national anthem and the lack of a policy to combat this, and now the banning of an ad from a veterans organization, I am officially done with the NFL."

Shafer faces two GOP rivals -- former state Rep. Geoff Duncan and ex-state Sen. Rick Jeffares -- in the hunt to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Several Democrats, including business executive Sarah Riggs Amico, are also in the race.

This is potentially tricky territory for Georgia candidates. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is a prolific donor to Democrats, but he's also spread the cash to GOP politicians, including Gov. Nathan Deal. And Atlanta, of course, is gearing up to host next year's Super Bowl.

Shafer's proposal, Senate Resolution 673, declares the league has "disregarded its own operating procedures by allowing, and in some cases condoning, shows of disrespect and contempt for the unifying national symbol of the United States of America."

And it would denounce the NFL for "hypocritical actions to silence the AMVETS National Service Foundation and suppress its message that Americans should respectfully stand for the Flag and National Anthem of the United States of America."

Greg Bluestein writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Email: gbluestein(at)

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